Home » Business & Economy » In brief: the history of India's flirtation with liquor bans

In brief: the history of India's flirtation with liquor bans

Neeraj Thakur | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

Banning liquor is back in vogue. It may seem out of step with the modern democratic ethos but the phenomenon is fairly widespread, and not just in India.

According to the WHO, the global consumption of liquor in 2010 alone was 6.2 litres per person aged 15 years or older, which amounts to 13.5 grams of pure alcohol a day. In India, 30% of the population takes alcohol; 4-13% are daily consumers and up to 50% indulge in hazardous drinking.

Political leaders and social activists in India and elsewhere have seized on this "high incidence" of drinking to seek ban on alcohol.

In this country, Article 47 of the Directive Principles of State Policy lays down that "the state shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the use, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drinks and drugs which are injurious to health". The states have used this directive at various times to ban alcohol. In fact, even the Lok Sabha passed a bill on 31 March 1956 prohibiting alcohol across the country.


The western state has imposed total prohibition since 1958. Only licensed five star hotels are allowed to serve the drink. A strict system of temporary and long-term permits allows foreigners and NRIs to purchase liquor from designated hotels and other places.

Nearly 30% Indians consume alcohol. While 4-13% are daily drinkers, 50% indulge in hazardous drinking

Tamil Nadu

Total prohibition was first declared in the erstwhile Madras state by chief minister C. Rajagopalchari in 1952. Twenty years later, the M Karunanidhi government withdrew the ban, only to impose it again a year later. The ban continued until 1980. Now, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has promised to bring back the prohibition if reelected.


The Bansi Lal regime imposed a ban on alcohol in 1996, only to revoke it 19 months later.

Andhra Pradesh

The state declared 11 districts dry in 1958, and they remained so until 1969. Chief Minister NT Rama Rao brought the ban back in 1994. It was revoked three years later.


Nagaland was the first Northeastern state to introduce prohibition in 1989, under pressure from the Naga Mother's Association. It's still in force.

In Gujarat, prohibition is in effect since 1958. Only 5-star hotels are allowed to serve liquor


The Mizoram Liquor Total Prohibition Act was passed in 1995. The Church played an important role in bringing about the legislation. In 2007, the state relaxed the ban to facilitate production of wine for export.


The liquor ban is in force in Manipur since 1991. Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh though has been talking about lifting it.


It's India's only Union Territory to have banned the sale and consumption of alcohol. Tourists are advised not to pack alcohol before flying to the islands from the mainland.


The state has imposed a partial ban on the sale of alcohol, and declared its intention to be "liquor-free" by 2025.


The latest state to declare prohibition has banned "all types of alcoholic drinks" from April 2016.

Outside India, a number of countries have flirted with prohibition over the decades. While many of them abandoned the experiment eventually, liquor bans in various forms remain in effect in several nations, notably in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Sudan, Libya and Brunei.

The United States

The America government prohibited alcohol in 1920 under pressure from Protestants, Anti-Saloon League, Prohibition Party and Woman's Christian Temperance Union. The ban was lifted in 1933.


The famously liberal Scandinavian country had a liquor ban in place from 1919 to 1932.


The Tsar declared prohibition in 1914 and it continued under the communist regime until 1925. The Soviet Union again partially banned alcohol between 1985 and 1987.

Edited by Mehraj D. Lone

More in Catch:

3 army bunkers razed in Handwara. Locals name one after cricketer Nayeem

Uttarakhand HC blasts Centre for chaos, Harish Rawat calls it setback for BJP

Brother against brother: Mulayam backs Akhilesh, shatters Shivpal's dream again

Achhe Din: BJP's income rose by 44% within a year of coming to power

First published: 20 April 2016, 7:58 IST
Neeraj Thakur @neerajthakur2

As a financial journalist, his interface with the two dominant 'isms'- Marxism and Capitalism- has made him realise that an ideal economic order of the world would lie somewhere between the two.

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Neeraj writes on everything related to business and the economy.

He has been associated with Businessworld, DNA and Business Standard in the past.

When not thinking about stories, he is busy playing with his pet dog, watching old Hindi movies or searching through the Vividh Bharti station on his Philips radio transistor.